Boring Book Recommendation: Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke

“..The argument he was conducting with his neighbor as to whether the English magician had gone mad because he was a magician, or because he was English.”

What is this book about?

It’s a treatise on how boring England actually was and how awesome it could have been if there were magicians around to fight in the Napoleonic Wars in the 19th century. Although I prefer wizards myself, we should keep to the terms Clarke uses, but don’t be fooled, these are magical magicians, not trickster magicians. In this fictional England, magic is believed to be dead by most English, but when Mr. Norrell comes out of hiding and reveals his powers, the country is lying at his feet. Not long after that another magician, Jonathan Strange comes forth and the two join up to fight the French.

Why is it boring?

It’s a thousand page book with footnotes rivaling those of Infinite Jest. The footnotes can take over multiple pages and battle the actual story for space. The story is also pretty slow and not as exciting as you might think. Don’t expect stereotypical evil villains or hunky young love interests. This book is by no means the newest Harry Potter.

Who would you recommend it to?

The Hermiones of the world. Read this if you either are really into historical novels, because then it’s great or if you are really into ‘magical realism and then it’s even greater! I would recommend this to people who think The Magicians by Lev Grossman isn’t serious enough or to people who thought Middlemarch by George Eliot could have benefited from more magic.

Why should I read it if it’s boring?!

It’s hard to say why you should read this book. It’s long, wordy and doesn’t use any of the usual magical tropes that make those stories exciting. The magicians do use magical feats like raising people from the dead, but they prefer to battle each other by writing scathing reviews of each others magical theories. For me, this is a good enough reason. If you still need more, the book is funny, fascinating and filled with mundane facts about magic that are so much more interesting then you’d ever would have thought. The scope of the story is immense. The entire country of England is entranced by just two men and they manage to split up the population into ‘Norrelites’ and ‘Strangites’. The book is filled with strange characters like The Raven King, fairies and the mysterious and super creepy gentleman with thistle-down hair and tells a story of friendship, madness and what it means to be English. The book might take a while to really suck you in, but when it does you will never want it to end.

Rating 3,5 /5

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